As IranWire has reported, hundreds of Iranians have sustained severe eye injuries after being hit by pellets, tear gas cannisters, paintball bullets or other projectiles used by security forces amid a bloody crackdown on mainly peaceful demonstrations. Doctors say that, as of now, at least 580 protesters have lost one or both eyes in Tehran and in Kurdistan alone. But the actual numbers across the country are much higher.
The report concluded that such actions by the security forces could constitute a “crime against humanity,” as defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute.
In this series of reports, IranWire presents the victims’ stories told in their own words. Some have posted their stories, along with their names and pictures, on social media. Others, whose real names shall not be disclosed to protect their safety, have told their stories to IranWire. IranWire can make their identities and medical situations available to international legal authorities.
This the story of Farid Rashidi, a 30-year-old man who lost an eye during nationwide protests three months ago. A pellet tore through Farid’s left eye and lodged in the bone behind it. The eye’s vision has been reduced to nothing more than a blurt, and doctors are unable to remove the pellet without causing further irreparable damage.
“Farid is very emotional and has been devastated. Most nights he has nightmares, and he spends his days hoping that his vision would return.”
On November 16, 2022, one week before Rashidi was to receive his hairdresser certificate, security forces in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas shot him with pellets.
That night, the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas witnessed widespread protests. The street was packed with demonstrators and the neighborhood was filled with shouting and gunfire.
Suddenly the electricity was cut off, plunging the neighborhood into the darkness. The security forces moved from alley to alley. In a blink of an eye, one of them came out from behind a tree and shot at Rashidi.
After around an hour and a half a friend arrived and took him to hospital.
12 Pellets in the Head Plus Four in the Eye
The same night a doctor examined Rashidi at a private home and used a scalpel to extract three pellets that had not penetrated deeply into the head. A CAT scan later revealed he had been hit by 12 pellets in the head, four in one eye, three in the torso and two in the legs.
Like many other Iranians who have sustained wounds during demonstrations, Rashidi went to another town for treatment to escape identification by security agents. He has had three surgeries so far. After the last one his eye developed cataract.
Dr. Rouzbeh Esfandiari, a former doctor with Tehran Emergency Services, tells IranWire that the pellet that blinded his eye entered through sclera, the white outer coating of the eye, before lodging in the bone behind the eye.
According to Esfandiari, the pellets have caused severe hemorrhage in the vitreous body, a gel-like substance that fills the space between the lens and the retina, and triggered retinal detachment.
“Concretely, this means blindness. To remove the pellet that is stuck into the bone they must enter from the bottom of the brain, and this can cause severe damage. Besides, it wouldn’t bring his eye’s vision back and an operation could cause cerebral abscess or hemorrhage.”
“How Could he Be so Cruel?”
Rashidi’s friend says that perhaps the most difficult moment in Farid’s life in the past three months occurred after he picked up the scissors to cut a friends’ hair.
“He closed and opened his eyes repeatedly. He was stressed out. Farid’s work was always very good, and he was famous for his faded haircuts. But now he couldn’t do it and hesitated all the time. Suddenly, he dropped the trimmer and said that he couldn’t do it.”
Farid must adjust to living with one eye. Daily incidents remind him of the moment he was hit by pellets. Once, the mother of his friend offered him tea and he put his fingers into the cup instead of taking it. When he tries to cross streets, the shouting by the drivers reminds him that he can no longer see with his left eye.
Farid’s left eyelids are now drooping, and they remind him of that November night each time he looks in a mirror. Perhaps that is why he often cries and asks his friends, “How could he be so cruel that he shot at me or anybody else from such a close range?”